Leading religion scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, are openly questioning recent official Catholic interpretations of the controversial Third Secret of Fatima, a famous Marian apparition. Three Portuguese children claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to them on six different occasions between May 13 and Oct. 17, 1917, at Fatima, 70 miles north of Lisbon. One of the trio, Lucia dos Santos, is now a Carmelite nun. Her cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, have since died. Pope John Paul II presided at a beatification ceremony May 13 for the Martos. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Pope's secretary of state, announced that the famous Third Secret of Fatima prophesied the attempted assassination of John Paul II, which occurred on May 13, 1981. The Vatican released the text of the Third Secret on June 26, along with a commentary by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, led by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

Interpretations differ

The Third Secret and the ensuing controversy provide a window into Catholic devotion to Mary and how some Catholics are at odds with their church's official statements. Hans Kong, the German theologian and longtime Vatican critic, tells Christianity Today he considers the Fatima revelations "pious projections of the children, especially of the eldest sister, Lucia." Kong believes the Vatican's interpretation is a posteriori (reasoning from effects to causes), "which does not contribute to its plausibility."Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame and general editor of The Encyclopedia of Catholicism, tells CT that he believes in neither Marian apparitions nor the Pope's recent interpretation. "The Third Secret speaks of a bishop in white dying. The Pope was only wounded. ...

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September 4, 2000

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